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Supreme Court won't hear broader legal challenge to Obamacare

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
updated 4:28 PM EST, Mon December 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The appeal turned aside on Monday involved the law's employer mandate
  • It was the second time the justices refused to hear matter
  • Liberty University has had a long-running appeal of Affordable Care Act
  • Court will hear related appeals of companies and contraceptive coverage

(CNN) -- A broader legal challenge to Obamacare's so-called "employer mandate" was turned aside by the Supreme Court on Monday.

The justices, without comment, again refused to intervene in Liberty University's long-running appeal of the Affordable Care Act.

It marked the second time in two years the court has declined to review the constitutionality of requirements for most large employers to offer a range of health insurance coverage for their workers.

Two narrowly focused petitions over the health law will be heard by the court in coming months. They involve whether some companies can refuse on religious grounds to provide insurance for certain birth control and other reproductive health services, without a co-pay.

Arguments will likely be held in March and a ruling is expected by late June.

In 2012, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the health law's funding mechanism, the so-called "individual mandate" that requires nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a financial penalty.

The justices tossed out all other pending appeals at that time, but left room for continued legal challenges to certain aspects of Obamacare's application.

Lynchburg, Virginia-based Liberty, which bills itself the largest Christian evangelical college in the world, refiled its lawsuit, saying its objections should be reconsidered in light of the court's 5-4 ruling affirming the overall law.

It sought an exemption, believing Americans should not be required to purchase health insurance -- and employers forced to provide it -- if there are legitimate moral and religious objections to some provisions.

A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously concluded in 2011 that the suit should be blocked on jurisdictional grounds.

While the Supreme Court for now will allow the employer mandate to go ahead, there are other pending lawsuits working their way through the lower federal courts, which could force an eventual constitutional showdown.

The administration said last month it would delay online implementation of the employer mandate -- affecting companies with 50 or more workers -- for another year, to give those busineses more time to prepare for the new regulations and requirements.

The case rejected Monday is Liberty University v. Lew (13-306).

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